It’s an hour after the third season episode of Game of Thrones I’ll only call “Trial by Combat”, and I’m still kinda trying to repress what I just saw. Even the books didn’t really prepare me for this, like it did for a wedding a season ago. I think a new benchmark in brutality has been reached for Thrones…and I suspect many viewers won’t be coming back for the last two episodes of the season.
I will say this about the scene though: this was much, much more shocking on television than in the books, because of all the senses that were engaged. The wedding was worse in the books than on screen, because the shock value outweighed the killing itself. But this fight wasn’t even close. If I can suppress the urge to throw up for a second…I would say that scene counts as some kind of tribute to the power of television for the storyteller. Whatever Martin wanted his readers to feel, they felt with much greater force on screen.
But now would be a good time to say that the show has probably reached its turning point.
I think we’ve gotten to a point where the brutality almost seems to be happening for it’s own sake. It has ceased to be a part of the bigger story, and it feels like a punishment for people following the show. You get to know characters, whether over the course of just a season or even years, and none of them are immune to death. This is fine in getting across a message that no person is sacred, because the world of Westeros is too real and too unforgiving for that. It’s alright to have characters you are invested in die. Sometimes horribly.
But characters are beginning to die faster than they can be built. And feeling like you’re being punished for developing an attachment to characters makes it hard to keep watching. I’ve read the books, so I know what’s ahead – for the time being, not a whole lot of compelling stuff. And there’s way too much deus ex going on that the showrunners will have to write around or choose to ignore. Just like brutality, there’s a fine line you can cross with forces like magic in the fantasy genre before it goes too far and ruins the importance and humanity of everything.
So unless Martin has some miracles left in his master plan for the plot, which the showrunners then execute to perfection, we just rounded the peak of Game of Thrones. This season has a few more interesting episodes left, but the crash is in sight.